Earlier this month at IBC, I stumbled upon Transvideo’s new StarliteRF Monitor. It looks identical to the StarliteHD but has the added feature of a zero delay wireless video receiver built in.
The first thing that impressed me was the overall size of the unit. I’m not too sure about the exact measurements but you can compare it to the diagonal size of an iPhone 6 (not 6+) and a little thinner than a pack of cigarettes. This is very small when considering it is both a monitor and a wireless receiver.
For comparison, Teradek’s Bolt Pro 300 receiver is slightly bigger than Transvideo’s StarliteRF Monitor/Receiver. The StarliteRF’s transmitter was surprisingly small too, again smaller and thinner than the Bolt 300 but with two antennas sticking out.
Both the monitor/receiver and transmitter have a battery slot at the back for your NP-F batteries. This is built-in so it is not interchangeable for different mounts (LP-E6 won’t fit, sorry!) and I’m not sure if any third party companies will be able to create battery brackets for it as there is no mounting points at the back. Having that battery slot built-in on both your receiver and transmitter will save you a lot of space and hassle when rigging and makes it extremely portable. Both units also have a 2pin lemo power input, so it is very easy to get power from an external source.
The menu on the StarliteRF is exactly the same as on the HD version. The two main features would be the ability to record your video feed onto an SD card in H.264 (files small enough to send in an email or upload to the cloud for quick sharing) and being able to set shortcuts in each corner of the touchscreen for quick access to your waveform, histogram, peaking, etc. The 720p touchscreen is very responsive and easy to use.
Now, how does it perform in a ‘real world’ environment? We were lucky enough to have it with us at our Freely Alta event last week to put it to test. On our Freefly Alta, we had a MōVI M15 bottom mounted with an Arri Alexa Mini and the Transvideo transmitter velcro’ed at the back of the MōVI. Power for the Mini was off a slim Vlock battery mounted on the side, with a dtap power output which I used to power the transmitter. Add a flexible SDI cable from the camera into the transmitter and you’re good to go. Nice, neat and easy. On the other side, I had Arri’s WCU-4 Wireless Remote to control the camera (didn’t have a cforce mini that day unfortunately) with a top plate to attach the monitor. Using a double sided screw and small ballhead, I mounted the StarliteRF on top. Once again; nice, neat and easy. No cables dangling around, not a heavy package, no need to mount your receiver on your monitor, etc.
The two pictures below show two focus puller kits; one with the StarlightRF, one with a one with a TVLogic 058W + Teradek Bolt Pro 2000.
With everything in place and set, we were then ready to fly the Alta and test the StarliteRF’s wireless range.
The flight was in a empty field with a few trees in the near distance, so no interference from WiFi or radio signals. Only 8 – 10 people with phones in their pockets, nothing else. We managed to fly about 100 – 150 meters away, line of sight, before loosing signal. Nothing amazing but acceptable. Being in an empty field, there is nothing around for the wireless signal to bounce off, so it gets ‘lost’ a little easier than if you were surrounded by walls. The screen was performing really well knowing we were outside in bright daylight without a sunhood attached onto it. They do sell one which clips on with magnets (also a hard cover with same magnet system for when packing it up) but we just didn’t have it with us at the time. You wouldn’t want to use it in that set up for critical focus pulling. But still good enough for monitoring the shot coming from the flying camera.
Battery life was pretty good! I was using Atomos’ slim NP-F batteries and managed to play around 45mins (while recording onto the SD card on and off) before I lost the video signal. Monitor was still on, but there wasn’t enough juice in the battery to receive a video feed from the transmitter.
To expand a little more on the range of the signal, when I was at IBC, I took the monitor from their booth (located near the centre of their hall) and managed to walk all around said hall without ever loosing signal. I was maybe 50 – 60 meters away at any given time but knowing how clogged up the area gets, the strength of Transvideo’s video feed was nothing short of incredible! There was a good 50 other manufacturer stands there with who knows how many WiFi and radio signals, hundreds of visitors using their phones constantly, etc. So knowing how congested the area gets, and that this unit was a pre production model, it was incredible to witness a video transmitter that performs SO well! One test I would have been interested in doing but didn’t get a chance to yet, is trying 3 or 4 of them at the same time in one same location and see how they perform. Will have to wait until they start shipping. I also walked around our 2 huge warehouse just before the Alta event, and managed to get about 30 meters away with 2 thick concrete walls in between the transmitter and receiver as well as 5 massive metal shelves filled up with boxes with cameras, lenses, and all sorts of other kit.
So we’ve talked about its ergonomics, its range and its strength. We love it. But there must be something bad about it right? It can’t be the perfect product… can it? Well, no. Not yet. But it could. This is a pre production unit and is not in its final form. It will be released in the coming months before the end of the year so they still have time to tweak it a little. There are definitely a few things that could be improved and rethought.
First would be the video inputs/outputs on the monitor/receiver. There are none. You can only get video in from the wireless receiver and you cannot output it. So if you wanted to use the StarliteRF just as a wireless receiver on a bigger monitor, you can’t. If you wanted to use this monitor on top of your camera and get its video feed via SDI, you can’t. No video inputs and no video outputs. They have mentioned a standalone receiver will be available shortly after the StarliteRF comes out. You will then be able to take advantage of Transvideo’s wireless technology and use it on any cameras and monitors you already own. The StarliteRF’s transmitter is SDI only and I believe the standalone kit will be as well but don’t take my word for it.
The 5” screen is both a positive and a negative factor in my opinion. It is very compact and lightweight, can be mounted virtually anywhere, easy to pass around and very practical overall. But it’s just not the 7” size which we are getting used to nowadays for focus pulling or for use as a directors monitor. However they have mentioned a 7” version coming out early next year. Looking forward to that!
You aren’t able to add an extra receiver to this current model. Again, this will be possible later on next year, we aren’t aware of the specifics currently, whether it’s a monitor with a dual receiver built in, or a standalone transmitter able to pair up with more than one receiver… I don’t know!
Not cheap. A Bolt Pro 300 TX + RX costs 1,200£ whereas the StarliteRF costs £4,300 (comes with 2 years warranty + an extra year when unit registered online). But then you get a 5” recording monitor + TX + RX in that package.
Yes I know, can’t really compare the two but I still did The Boxx Atom TX + RX is shy of £8,000.
My verdict; This really is a great product! It has a great design incorporated with fantastic technology. It is much smaller and lighter than most of the other wireless systems out on the market currently. Its performance surpasses what we have witnessed from Teradek and Paralinx products but unfortunately isn’t in the same price bracket as these. But then at this price, you get a level of reliability and reassurance from the product you wouldn’t with other manufacturers.
Interested in demoing the StarliteRF? Book an appointment at CVP on 0208 380 7400